The Spire Study Guide

The Spire

The Spire by William Golding


Dean Jocelin is the character through whom the novel is presented. Golding utilises the stream of consciousness technique to show his, Lear-like, descent into madness. The novel charts the destruction of his self-confidence and ambition. As the construction of the spire draws to an end, Jocelin is removed from his position as Dean and his abandonment of his religious duties is denounced by the church Council. Ultimately, he succumbs to his illness which he had personified as his guardian angel.

Jocelin may have been named after Josceline de Bohon, Bishop of Salisbury from 1142 to 1184, who is buried in Salisbury Cathedral.

Roger Mason

Roger Mason, a medieval Master Mason is, in direct contrast to Jocelin, physically powerful and a rationalist. He is associated with the imagery of a bull and a stallion. Roger contends with Jocelin, arguing that the cathedral foundations are insufficient to support the spire. He is forced to continue with the project because Jocelin makes it impossible for him to work elsewhere. After the death of Goody, Roger becomes an alcoholic. In a moment of clarity, Jocelin visits Roger and we eventually learn of his failed suicide attempt.


Rachel Mason is Roger's wife. She reveals to Jocelin the reason why they cannot have children as attempts at sex result in fits of giggles.


Pangall is the crippled and impotent cathedral servant. He is mocked because of his impotency by the workmen.


Goody, who acts as an important object of love and lust, ultimately dies while giving birth. Jocelin initially sees her as the perfect woman.

Father Anselm

Anselm is largely critical of the developments concerning the spire, arguing that it is destruction of the church. Jocelin had been prepared to lose his friendship with Anselm as part of the cost of the spire, but we learn by the end of the novel that they appeared not to have a friendship in the first place.

Father Adam

Father Adam is dubbed by Jocelin as " Father Anonymous ", indicating Jocelin's feelings of superiority. Until the end of the novel, when Father Adam becomes Jocelin's caretaker, he is largely a minor character who is surprised by how Jocelin was never taught to pray, doing his best to help him to heaven.

Lady Alison

A wealthy mistress of the late King, we learn how the money funding the spire was a result of this affair. With the appearance of a "tiny woman– not much larger than a child", she is plump and pale, wearing a black dress, black hair, eyes and make-up, with mainly small features. Her wealth and sexuality is presented through her pearls and perfume and she takes care of her appearance, having smooth skin with fine lines, despite her age.

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